Thursday, January 9, 2014

Economic Stimulus (A short story)

"Jerry, you get back here!" Liza sighed, stopped the loaded cart with some difficulty. The front wheel tended to turn at the exact wrong moment, and sure enough when she pulled back on the shopping cart handle it swerved into a display of kitchen utensils.

"Jerry! Do I have to put the leash back on you?"

He was too old for the leash. It was currently being used to tether his four year old brother to the shopping cart handle.

PB (Short for Peanut Butter, since that’s all he would eat at the moment) stood there sucking on his finger and staring down at the mess.

Jerry wandered back over.

"Jerry, help me with this." Making sure that the baby was secured (she had three escape artists on her hands, and she was NOT going to be saddled with another one. Maybe) she bent and started restacking the display, rather haphazardly, just piling the stuff back into the spaces with no concern for where things were supposed to go.

Nearly finished, she looked up, alarmed at the silence.


To her surprise, he was just at the end of the aisle. She got the cart started again and moved in that direction. He turned as she approached, pointing. "What’s that, Mom?"

Liza sighed. "I’m going to need another cart." She looked around, rather vaguely, and stuck the binky back in the baby’s mouth.

"But what is it?"

"The president says it’s going to help the economy."

Jerry looked at the big blank box labeled “Economic Stimulus.” Small print on one corner of the box stated Some Assembly Required.

"But what is it?"

"I don’t know, Jerry. The president said we all need to buy one to help the economy. Go get another cart, will you?"

With another sigh, she stared at the display next to it, clearly labeled "Health Care."

"Buy, buy, buy," she muttered. "Sight unseen, doesn’t matter, we’ll find out what’s in it later. Doesn’t matter that I’m on a tight budget and can’t afford to buy a pig in a poke."

She smiled as Jerry pushed another cart down the aisle. She smiled at him as she piled one of each into the cart. "Doesn’t matter that no one else is buying it. Come on. Let’s get home and put this thing together. Let’s find out what we bought."

* * *

Jerry darted into his bedroom, and she let PB off his leash. With a squeal, he ran after his brother.

Liza sighed and carted in the groceries, and then the two big, anonymous boxes. Suspecting she’d need it she got out the tool box. "Jerry!" she shouted across the house. "Where’s the Allen wrench?"

No answer. Not that it mattered at the moment. She might not need it. The president had promised it would be simple. The radio droned in the background, just noise.

She opened the first box, peered in, and almost panicked. She fished through anonymous pieces thrown randomly in the box, and finally looked around at an acre of plastic and metal on her living room floor. She winced as she realized that one piece was leaking oil. "No instructions?"

The radio static finally penetrated, the chirpy voice of the announcer finishing up today’s spiel. "And today, the President has announced another Economic Stimulus package. It will be on shelves in one week, and everyone needs to buy one."

Liza wanted to shoot the radio, but she settled for turning it off.

The president could spit in his own eye, and stimulate the economy himself as well. She didn’t have the money for it, or the patience. Well, at least the president was doing something. When dealing with politicians or children, silence meant they were up to mischief.

"Jerry?" Silence.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


In the time of Galileo, many people believed strongly that the Earth was the center of the Universe.

By observation they had determined that the sun went around the Earth--it rose every morning, rolled across the sky and sank every night. Irrefutable evidence. In watching the stars they realized that the planets made odd patterns, not perfect circles around the Earth, and they made up elaborate explanations for why this was so.

Their beliefs were supported by evidence as they knew it.

Galileo blew all of that out of the water, and was killed for it. Not because he spoke truth, not because he spoke lies, but because he spoke truth that those in power did not want to acknowledge.

When Columbus spoke of "sailing west to get to the east," he was also laughed at. Sailors knew the world was round, but the scientific coterie (which was mostly landed aristocrats, since they were the only people who could waste valuable time on experimentation) insisted it was flat. Again, they came up with convoluted explanations that supported their understanding of the world.

We think science has advanced since then. We see ourselves sitting at the peak of a mountain range of scientific knowledge, the masters of all we survey. What we're really doing is squatting at the base of the foothills marveling at an anthill.

Unfortunately, I see a scientific organization that doesn't want to acknowledge that they don't already know it all. New ideas are discouraged. Anything that refutes the currently accepted knowledge is ruthlessly squashed without attempting to prove or disprove because everyone (i.e., all those who matter) already knows that it's nonsense.

People will come up with all kinds of reasons, but it boils down to a few points:

A The discoverer didn't have the right credentials
B The information wasn't published in a "refereed" journal, which it couldn't be anyway because
C The information directly contradicted something that was commonly believed

Anyone who supports or attempts to work with these "discoveries" is suppressed as well, and with the same logic. Discoverers are ignored, supporters discredited and ideas that might have advanced science disappear into the cracks of society. I might go so far as to say that they are martyred in the name of science.

Still, there are a few who walk against the tide, working on their own ideas in basements and garages, unacknowledged. Like Galileo, they pave the way for man to look up rather than down, forward rather than back. As at every other point in history it will be these adventurers who allow us to advance, if advancement is possible.

I hope they continue, because when they are all silenced the dark ages will return.